Diving into Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on June 23, 2010
in Essays

“A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”
– John Keats in the film Bright Star

Bright Star has become one of my favorite movies since I saw it twice in theatres. And my favorite scene from the film is the poetry lesson that John Keats gives Fanny Brawne. Fanny states she does not know how to work out a poem, as so many of us would say if someone asked us how to work out a poem. Keats responds with the above.

The last few nights I have watched again and again and again this particular scene. Keats gives an entire year’s worth of poetic instruction in that single scene.

* * *

Lately in discussing poetry with my friends, they say, “I am no expert in poetry,” or “I do not understand poetry,” even before we have discussed a poem. If I were to ask a friend what they thought of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club or Hubert Selby Jr.’s Requiem for a Dream, would they say, “Oh, I am no expert in novels”?

No, they would not. The very idea is ridiculous.

Read more..

Who, if I sung out, would hear?

Echo Bridge, Waban, Massachusetts

Echo Bridge, Waban, Massachusetts

The rock looked inviting.

Rocks, as I am sure you know, do not often look inviting. But this one did. Its cold, rough, mossy surface jutted out over the Charles River. It was bathed in sunlight.

I had not been exploring Hemlock Gorge very long, but I wanted to sit. And I wanted to read in the sunlight. What did it matter that I was wearing a business suit and a light trench coat, and had a laptop bag with two books slung across my shoulders? The river spirits wouldn’t care how I was dressed.

The soles of my shoes slipped and I was afraid of falling in. But, settling myself on the rock, I looked out at the river. I felt like child again, in a world of unlimited possibilities.

Read more..

Patrons & Saints

by Matthew Koslowski on December 24, 2009
in Essays

To one of my saints, my dear friend, Emily Baum, with the deepest appreciation.

In This Essay

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca (C.D.N. Costa, trans.)
Late Bloomers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Annals of Culture, The New Yorker
On Dying Young by Matthew Koslowski, Literature&Literacy
William Stafford, Poet, Wikipedia
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (Stephen Mitchell, trans.)
Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose by Rainer Maria Rilke (Stephen Mitchell, ed. and trans.)
The Second Four Books of Poems by W.S. Merwin
 

“Is there anything I can do to cheer you up?” she asks.

“Sure,” I say. “Just show me a writer — a poet, preferably — who did not a pickup a pen before he was 27 or 30, who amounted to anything, who history remembers.”

These conversations are common.

I expect the normal, well-intentioned platitudes. Often I begin to despair because I have not dedicated myself to my writing. I begin to think that my time is up. “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it,” Seneca whispers. “Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.” And I begin to think about how I have not invested my time well.

Rilke writes, “…if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn’t write at all.” Haven’t I been living without writing? I have not worked on my novel in weeks. Or have I been existing and drifting? Do I really feel that I could live without writing?

“William Stafford,” she says.

Read more..

Memorizing Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on November 25, 2009
in Essays

In This Essay

Complete Poems of John Keats
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Speaking of Faith: Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education
 

In college I resolved to memorize Paradise Lost.

Not just “The Invocation to the Muse,” the first twenty-six lines. The entire work. All twelve books.

My inspiration came in part from watching The Crow. One of the villains, T-Bird, picks up a book and reads, “Abashed the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is, and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely…” Wondering if he were reading from a real book, I searched Google and found that quote comes from Book IV of Paradise Lost.

I developed a plan, in fact, to memorize the poem. After letting this grandiose idea overtake me, I sat down with a copy of the poem and determined how many lines were in each book. Then adding them up, I figured how long it would commit to memory if I memorized a fixed number — I believe it was ten lines — per day. It was a project that was going to take years of dedicated work.

Read more..

On Dying Young

by Matthew Koslowski on November 18, 2009
in Anecdotes

As I have written before, I aspire to be a novelist.

But that desire to be a novelist does not come without a number of uncertainties and fears. Looking at the papers, it is not difficult to come across an article bemoaning the state of the publishing business or another article bemoaning the state of the American reader. Stories circulate within writers communities about the difficulties of finding first an agent and then a publisher. The story is so well known that it even appeared in the movie Sideways as the special lot of writers.

Read more..

Next Page »